We’re Talking Playoffs

In the news today: Sean Gentille with a solid scoop on what the Pens are likely to do when they have their full complement of players back. We’re on board.

Somebody confirmed that Paul-Mart and Epic Neal Time will be back in the lineup tomorrow.

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Updated from yesterday’s gameday post, the 8 Eastern Conference playoff teams are set with the Senators and Rangers in and the Jets just missing. Further, the Leafs have separated themselves from the 8th seed, leaving only the Islanders, Senators, and Rangers as possible first round matchups for the Penguins. What follows will be an examination of what it would take for the Penguins to get to match up against a possible team, and how well they would match up in a seven game series.

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Islanders: The Isles play tonight against the Sabres. If they lose in regulation the Pens will know their foe in round one. The Rangers already have the first tie break against the Isles, ROW, and the Senators would have the second and third: head to head record and goal differential. Go Sabres. If the Islanders are able to win, then the Rangers would need to win to maintain their ROW advantage.

Like the Leafs, the Isles haven’t been in the playoffs in seemingly forever, but their fan base isn’t anything like Toronto’s so that element doesn’t seem to factor into wanting or not wanting to face the Islanders. Unlike the Leafs, who might just have enough grit to be dangerous in the playoffs, the Islanders don’t have that. They’re a better defensive team than the Leafs, and their goaltending was pretty good in the regular season. But we are talking about Evgeni Nabokov who could probably just be referred to as “Playoff Egg Layer” and everyone would know who you’re talking about. It would be fun to see Tavares in the playoffs, for as striking as this is to say, for my money, he should win the Hart Trophy. He’s the only reason the Islanders are going to the playoffs, what more could you ask in “most valuable player” voting.

Certainly there is some bad karma between the Islanders and the Penguins, and none of it is helped by these 2013 Penguins being compared to the 1992-93 Pens. But here’s the thing, these Penguins haven’t lost any of their edge or composure, they’re so business like it’s scary. And these Islanders are a lot different than the Islanders of the early 90s, who were perennial playoff teams if not Cup challengers. This Islanders team is neither.

Rangers: If the Islanders do beat the Sabres then the Rangers are next most likely to be the matchup for the Penguins. The Senators have an advantage in head-to-head matchup (actually they went 3-0), and the Islanders don’t. As such the Rangers would still need to drop their final game of the season tonight against the Devils.

If playing the Islanders is scary because of a specific karmic balance between the Penguins and the Islanders, than playing the Rangers would be scary based on their similarity to last year’s Los Angeles Kings: the Rangers are built almost exclusively for the playoffs with incredible grit and defense, and that almost cost them a chance at even getting there. But now we know they’re in, and for my money I don’t want the Penguins to be part and parcel to the next 8th seed to advance to the Stanley Cup.

Certainly if the Rangers are that good we’ll probably have to deal with them at some point. And the Penguins do stack up incredibly well against them, the Rangers’ lack of high end scoring will make them easier to stop and traditionally the Penguins have found ways to terrorize Henrik Lundqvist, oh and going 9-2 against them in the last two seasons doesn’t hurt either. In addition the rivalry between the Rags and Pens is too good, the familiarity factor would probably help the real and imagined coaches of the Pens to make meaningful adjustments, and traveling to MSG is way easier than traveling to Long Island or freaking Ottawa.

All in all this matchup creates a lot of mixed feelings with this author.

Ottawa: the Senators have two games remaining thanks to the dickheads who thought they could pull one over in Boston. If the Penguins are to play them in the first round the Sens can only earn one out of the possible four points remaining in their regular season. Beyond that, both the Islanders and the Rangers would need to win their final games. The Senators play the Flyers (who suck), and the Bruins (who could still be fighting to win the #2 seed in the East), so it’s impossible to say what will happen.

Ottawa is a best case matchup for the Penguins. Sure Craig Anderson is a stud, but the team in front of him is neither gritty nor particularly talented. Erik Karlsson is back and he instantaneously became that team’s best defenseman, and their best scorer, and who knows how good he’s actually feeling. In addition to that you have to imagine that the insane behavior of Senators’ owner Eugene Melnyk and GM Bryan Murray, as fueled by the disgusting Ottawa media and bloodthirsty fanbase will prove far more distracting to the Sens team on the ice than it would be to the Penguins.

It’s really hard to identify a critique to this possible matchup other than to say it’s unlikely to happen. If anything you could say that the Senators are “due” for some success against the Pens, the Penguins went 3-0 against the Sens in the regular season this year and have won the last two playoff series against the Senators in only 9 games. Oh, and maybe Jason Spezza will stop being a baby.

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